Thursday, 16 October 2008

A Match Too Far II...

Nobody beats Flavia Pennetta six times in a row - she finally stopped the rot by beating Jelena Jankovic for the first time, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in Zurich today, and thereby ended the Serbians incredible run that has seen her claim three straight titles.

It was in some ways befitting that Pennetta should be the one to put a stop to Jankovic's winning ways; she' d played her three times already this year and although they were all straight sets losses, you could sense she was gaining some ground on each meeting. In their last match at Moscow particularly, it was really only Jankovic's psychological advantage that gave her the upper hand.

Jankovic has simply been exceptional this year. She's often been unfairly maligned in my opinion, for regaining the #1 ranking despite never having won a slam. But to be honest, given the current state of the women's game, it probably won't be too long before that changes. Yes, Sharapova and the Williams Sisters are the better calibre players, but if others are injured or unwilling to play the amount of tennis the #1 ranking demands, it'll only be a matter of time before someone else takes it on (If it weren't Jankovic, it'd be someone less deserving and I guarantee you they wouldn't have put in the court miles that the Serbian has).

She's always been a great mover possessing probably the best defence in the women's game, always forcing her opponents to play one extra shot. Her trademark backhand down the line winner is perhaps one of the best shots in women's tennis.
Since reaching her first US Open final she also now appears to be putting right what many feel were her two main weaknesses: Her poor serve and her inability or unwillingnesss to put balls away early on during rallies; even in the face of easy opportunities, she'd often elect to play to her natural counterpunching tendency. Not any more.

That about sums up what she's doing right - here's what I think she could improve:

  • Play less tournaments: Someone seriously needs to draw her attention to how thin she's spreading herself and of the inevitable consequences thereof, because she just doesn't appear to get it - I find this all the more surprising as she burnt herself out last year too, and was a shell of her normal self in the Season Ending Championships.
  • Dispense with the on court 'distractions': Put simply she's more than capable of winning without all the additional baggage she sometimes brings to matches. I try not to personalise on this blog, but all the complaining about Venus taking an excessive amount of time between points during their recent match in Stuttgart (which culminated in Jankovic's coach taking out a stopwatch) overshadowed an otherwise quality encounter, and was a little too much to stomach.
Anyway, Jankovic's departure has opened up an opportunity for Ivanovic to attempt, once again to recapture the form we all know she's capable of. I really do hope she can do it this time - it will set her up well of the Season Ending Championships.

Pennetta image by adisetiawan distributed under licence

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